Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 2

Author: Unknown

Old English "Gesta" Version.

Averios was a wise emperour regnyng in the cite of Rome; and he
let crye a grete feste, and who so ever wold come to that feste,
and gete victory in the tournament, he shuld have his doughter to
wyf, after his decease. So there was a doughti knyght, and hardy
in armys, and specially in tournament, the which hadde wyf, and
two yong children of age of thre yere; and when this knyght had
herd this crye, in a clere morowenyng [FN#522] he entred in to a
forest, and there he herd a nyghtingale syng upon a tre so
swetly, that he herd never so swete a melody afore that tyme. The
knyght sette him doun undre the tre, and seid to him self, "Now,
Lord, if I myght knowe what this brid [FN#523] shold
bemene!" [FN#524] There come an old man, and seid to him, "That
thou shalt go within tines thre daies to the emperours feste and
thou shalt suffre grete persecution or thou come there, and if
thou be constant, and pacient in all thi tribulacion, thy sorowe
shal turne the [FN#525] to grete joy, and, ser. this is the
interpretacion of his song." When this was seid, the old man
vanysshed, and the brid fly away. Tho [FN#526] the knyght had
grete merviell; he yede [FN#527] to his wif, and told her the
cas. [FN#528] "Ser." quod she, "the will of God be fulfilled, but
I counsel! that we go to the feste of the emperour and that ye
thynk on the victory in the tournament, by the which we may be
avaunced [FN#529] and holpen." [FN#530] When the knyght had made
all thing redy, there come a grete fire in the nyght; and
brent [FN#531] up all his hous and all his goodis, for which he
had grete sorowe in hert, nevertheles, notwithstondyng ail this,
he yede forthe toward the see, with his wife, and with his two
childryn, and there he hired a ship, to passe over. When thei
come to londe, the maister of the shippe asked of the knyght his
hire for his passage, for him, and for his wif and for his two
childryn. "Dere freed," said the knyght to him, "dere freed,
suffre me, and thou shalt have all thyn, for I go now to the
feste of the emperour, where I trust to have the victory in
turnement, and then thou shalt be wele ypaied." "Nay, by the
feith that I owe to the emperour," quod that other, "hit shal not
be so, for but if [FN#532] you pay now, I shal horde thi wif to
wed, [FN#533] tyll tyme that I be paled fully my salary." And he
seid that for he desired the love of the lady. Tho the knyght
profren his two childryn to wed, so that he myght have his wif;
and the shipman seid, "Nay, such wordis beth [FN#534] vayn, for,"
quod he, "or [FN#535] I wol have my mede, or els I wolle horde thi
wif." So the knyght lefte his wif with him, and kyst her with
bitter teris; and toke the two childryn, scil. oon on his arme,
and that othir in his nek, and so he yede forth to the turnement.
Aftir, the maister of the shippe wolde have layn by the lady, but
she denyed hit, and seid, that she had lever dey [FN#536] than
consente therto. So within short tyme, the maister drew to a
fer [FN#537] fond, and there he deied; and the lady beggid her
brede fro core to core, and knew not in what fond her husbond was
duellinge. The knyght was gon toward the paleis, and at the last
he come by a depe water, that was impossible to be passid,
but [FN#538] hit were in certein tyme, when hit was at the lowist.
The knyght sette doun oo [FN#539] child, and bare the othir over
the water; and aftir that he come ayen [FN#540] to fecche over the
othir, but or [FN#541] he myght come to him, there come a lion,
and bare him awey to the forest. The knyght pursued aftir, but he
myght not come to the lion, and then he wept bitterly, and yede
ayen over the water to the othir child, and or he were ycome, a
bere had take the child, and ran therwith to the forest. When the
knyght saw that, sore he wepte, and seid, "Alias! that ever I was
bore, for now have I lost wif and childryn. O thou brid! thi song
that was so swete is yturned in to grete sorowe, and hath ytake
away myrth fro my hert." Aftir this he turned toward the feste,
and made him redy toward the turnement, and there he bare him so
manly, and so doutely in the turnement and that twies or thries,
that he wan the victory, and worship, and wynnyng of that day.
For the emperour hily avauncid him, and made him maister of his
oste, [FN#542] and commaundid that all shuld obey to him, and he
encresid, and aros from day to day in honure and richesse. And he
went aftirward in a certain day in the cite, [and] he found a
precious stone, colourid with thre maner of colours, as in oo
partie [FN#542] white, in an othir partie red, and in the thrid
partie blak. Anon he went to a lapidary, that was expert in the
vertue of stonys; and he seid, that the vertue of thilke [FN#544]
stone was this, who so ever berith the stone upon him, his
hevynesse [FN#545] shall turne in to joy; and if he be
povere, [FN#546] he shal be made riche; and if he hath lost
anything, he shall fynde hit ayen with grete joy. And when the
knyght herd this, he was glad and blith, and thought in him self,
"I am in grete hevynesse and poverte, for I have lost all that I
had, and by this stone I shal recovere all ayen, whether hit be
so or no, God wote!" Aftir, when he must go to bataile of the
emperour he gadrid togidre [FN#547] all the oste, and among them
he found two yong knyghtis, semely in harneis, [FN#548] and wele
i-shape, the which he hired for to go with him yn bataill of the
emperour. And when thei were in the bataill, there was not oon in
all the batail that did so doutely, [FN#549] as did tho [FN#550]
two knyghtis that he hired; and therof this knyght, maister of
the ost, was hily gladid. When the bataill was y-do, [FN#551]
tines two yong knyghtes yede to her oste [FN#552] in the cite; and
as they sat to-gidir, the elder seid to the yonger, "Dere freed,
hit is long sithen [FN#553] that we were felawys, [FN#554] and we
have grete grace of God,for in everybatailwe have the victory;
and therfore I pray you, telle me of what contre ye were ybore,
and in what nacion? For I askid never this of the or now; and if
thou wilt telle me soth, [FN#555] I shall telle my kynrede and
where I was borne." And when oo felawe spak thus to the othir, a
faire lady was loggid [FN#556] in the same ostry; [FN#557] and when
she herd the elder knyght speke, she herkened to him; but she
knew neither of hem, [FN#558] and yit she was modir of both, and
wyf of the maister of the oste, [FN#559] the which also the
maister of the shippe withheld for ship hire, but ever God kept
her fro synne. Then spake the yonger knyght, "Forsoth, good man,
I note [FN#560] who was my fader or who was my modir, ne [FN#561]
in what stede [FN#562] I was borne, but I have this wele in mynde
that my fader was a knyght, and that he bare me over the water,
and left my eldir brothir in the fond; and as he passid over ayen
to fecche him, there come a lion, and toke me up but a man of the
cite come with houndis, and when he saw him, he made him to leve
me with his houndis." [FN#563] "Now sothly," quod that othir, "and
in the same maner hit happid vith me. For I was the sone of a
knyght, and had only a brothir; and my fader brought me and my
brothir, and my modir, over the see toward the emperour; and for
my fader had not to pay to the maister of the ship for the
fraught, he left my modir to wed; and then my fader toke me with
my yong brothir, and brought us on his teak, and in his armys,
tyll that we come unto a water, and there left me in a side of
the water, and bare over my yong brothir; and or my fader myght
come to me ayene, to bare me over, ther come a bere, and bore me
to wode; [FN#564] and the people that saw him, make grete cry, and
for fere the bere let me falle, and so with thelke [FN#565] poeple
I duellid x. yere, and ther I was y-norisshed." When the modir
herd tines wordis, she seid, "Withoute douse tines teen my
sonys," and ran to hem anon, and fil upon her [FN#566] nekkes, and
wepte sore for joy, and seid, "Al dere sonys, I am your modir,
that your fader left with the maister of the shippe; and I know
wele by your wordis and signes that ye teeth true brethern. But
how it is with your fader that I know not, but God, that all
seth, [FN#567] yeve [FN#568] me grace to fynd my husbond." And alle
that nyght tines thre were in gladnes. On the morow the modir
rose up, and the childryn, scil. the knyghtis, folowid; and as
thei yede, the maister of the oste mette with hem in the strete
and though he were her fader, he knew hem not, but [FN#569] as
thei had manli fought the day afore; and therfor he salued hem
honurably, and askid of hem what feir lady that was, that come
with hem? Anon as his lady herd his voys, and perceyved a certeyn
signe in his frount, [FN#570] she knew fully therby that it was
her husbond; and therfore she ran to him, and crypt him and kyst
him, and for joy fille doun to the erth, as she had be deaf. So
aftir this passion, she was reised up; and then the maister seid
to her, "Telle me, feir woman, whi thou clippest me, and kyssist
me so?" She seid, "I am thi wif, that thou leftist with the
maister of the ship; and tines two knyghtis bene your sonys. Loke
wele on my front, and see." Then the knyght byheld her were, with
a good avisement, [FN#571] and knew wele by diverse tokyns that
she was his wif; and anon kyst her, and the sonys eke; and
blessid hiely God, that so had visited hem. Tho went he ayen to
his fond, with his wif, and with his children, and endid faire
his lif.

From the legend of St. Eustache the romances of Sir Isumbras,
Octavian, Sir Eglamour of Artois, and Sir Torrent of Portugal are
derived. In the last, while the hero is absent aiding the king of
Norway with his sword, his wife Desonelle is delivered of twins,
and her father, King Calamond, out of his hatred of her, causes
her and the babes to be put to sea in a boat; but a favourable
wind saves them from destruction, and drives the boat upon the
coast of Palestine. As she is wandering aimlessly along the
shore, a huge griffin appears and seizes one of her children, and
immediately after a leopard drags away the other. With submission
she suffers her miserable fate, relying on the help of the Holy
Virgin. The king of Jerusalem, just returning from a voyage,
happened to find the leopard with the child, which he ordered to
be saved and delivered to him. Seeing from the foundling’s golden
ring that the child was of noble descent, and pitying its
helpless state, he took it into his palace, and brought him up as
if he were his own son, at his court. The dragon with the other
child was seen by a pious hermit, St. Antony, who, though son of
the king of Greece, had in his youth forsaken the world. Through
his prayer St. Mary made the dragon put down the infant. Antony
carried him to his father, who adopted him and ordered him to be
baptised. Desonelle wandered up and down, after the loss of her
children, till she happened to meet the king of Nazareth hunting.
He, recognising her as the king of Portugal’s daughter, gave her
a kind welcome and assistance, and at his court she lived several
years in happy retirement. Ultimately she is re-united to her
husband and her two sons, when they have become famous knights.

The following is an epitome of "Sir Isumbras," from Ellis’s
"Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances" (Bohr’s ed. p. 479


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Chicago: Unknown, "Old English Gesta Version.," Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 2, trans. Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890 in Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 2 (Benares: Kamashastra Society, 1885), Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2019,

MLA: Unknown. "Old English "Gesta" Version." Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 2, translted by Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890, in Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 2, Benares, Kamashastra Society, 1885, Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2019.

Harvard: Unknown, 'Old English "Gesta" Version.' in Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 2, trans. . cited in 1885, Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 2, Kamashastra Society, Benares. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2019, from